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Kitchener-Waterloo tech firms asking employees to work remotely in bid to slow spread of COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Parliament to shutter for 5 weeks to limit COVID-19 spread' Parliament to shutter for 5 weeks to limit COVID-19 spread
Parliament to shutter for five weeks to limit COVID-19 spread. – Mar 13, 2020

A large number of local tech firms have either asked or ordered their employees to work from home in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The list of firms that have announced a mandatory work-from-home policy on Twitter or confirmed the decision to Global News includes Plum, Shopify, Square, Google, Shinydocs, Igloo Software and ArcticWolf.

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A spokesperson for ArcticWolf, a cybersecurity company with approximately 175 employees in KW and 400 across North America, says it made the decision out of an abundance of caution.

“With World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, out of an abundance of caution, and like other companies in our industry, we have asked our employees to work from home,” ArticWolf spokesperson Dan Deeth told Global News via email.

READ MORE: Public Health confirms 4th COVID-19 case in Waterloo Region

Igloo Software CEO Jason Hahn told Global News in a statement that his company which makes software which helps people work remotely took pause before making the move.

“After very careful consideration of the impact COVID-19 has around the world and ensuring the health and well-being of our employees, Igloo has temporarily enacted our remote work plan,” he said.

Others who have asked employees to work from home on a voluntary basis include Opentext.

“Public health experts advise that social distancing represents one of our best tactics to slow the spread of COVID-19, so we are acting to protect the health of our employees, customers and the communities in which we operate,” a spokesperson for Opentext told Global News.

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Coronavirus around the world: March 13, 2020

The company has also closed offices in Seattle, Milan and Rome in response to the growing pandemic.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: all you need to know about COVID-19 in Waterloo Region

Global News spoke with Ben Scavuzzo of TOPdesk Canada on Friday. His company offers software for companies with employees who work remotely.

He offered some advice for companies who are looking at having employees work at home for the first time.

“Just make sure that all the basic technical requirements are in place for everybody to work from home,” Scavuzzo said. “Can everybody log in remotely? Can everybody access all the software remotely?

“And moreover, (are) all the necessary security protocols in place to make sure that I can access our private company information without it being accessible to everybody in the world?”

READ MORE: University of Waterloo, Laurier, Conestoga suspend on-campus classes due to COVID-19

He also suggests that IT departments be prepared to train everybody properly and be able to answer any questions that come up for newbies that work remotely.

“For the people who don’t pick up things as quickly, the IT department should be ready to give some training to make sure everybody’s comfortable with the new tools and the new ways of working,” Scavuzzo said.

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